We spend one third of our lives in a state of sleep or trying to attain that restful state1. Not sleeping well may not seem like a big deal but chronic loss of sleep can cause a panoply of problems. Physical health, mental health, productivity, arguably every facet of our lives can be either improved or damaged by the amount of sleep we get.
A continual lack of sleep can lead to serious health issues such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, mood disorders and impaired immune function. While it may not seem like much goes on while we sleep, our bodies are quite busy repairing and managing the complexities that make us function optimally. Regulating hormones is one of those tasks overseen during adequate quality sleep. Too little sleep can affect this delicate process and cause a harmful imbalance. For example, when the stress hormone cortisol and the glucose regulating hormone insulin are too high, risk of weight gain and diabetes appear2. Since chronic sleep issues cause undue stress to the body, physical and mental exhaustion can easily exacerbate hypertension, depression and anxiety as the tired body struggles to keep up with all the daily demands. Sleep deprivation also suppresses the immune system so remember, a well rested body is better equipped to fight and prevent serious health problems3.
Sleep deprivation issues extend beyond the individual, especially in instances where decreased productivity, errors in the worplace, or preventable accidents occur. Cost of fatigue in the workplace, measured by poor performance, absenteeism, accidents and injuries clocks in at a whopping $136 billion loss4. Numerous demanding jobs require long hours and extreme attention to detail. Fatigue can impair critical decision abilities resulting in devastating consequences. Medical errors contribute to a shocking number of deaths each year. Many high profile accidents such as the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, and the Chernobyl disaster, are all partially attributed to errors due to sleep deprivation. Long shifts, night shifts, and double shifts, can all make it even harder for some people to get good quality sleep. Driver fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel cause an estimated 100,000 crashes each year in the United States5. Chronic sleep deprivation is a consequential problem that requires more attention especially since it doesn’t just affect the individual but can result in fatal accidents.
Sleeping is an indispensable part of our lives and ensures that our bodies function optimally. For some, it may seem like a waste of time, but your body needs that time to repair and heal itself from the day’s activities, physically and mentally. Prioritizing a good night’s sleep is just as important as any other healthy habit. The consequences of insufficient sleep are just too great to dismiss.
Nurses working 12.5-hour shifts report committing more than three times as many medical errors than those working 8.5-hour shifts.